Tag Archive | Jesse Moynihan

“Sky Witch” Review

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Original Airdate: July 29, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

If there’s one thing I always like to make clear in regards to Bubbline is that it is not, nor was it ever, the most important or crucial story that Adventure Time has ever tried to tell. That idea alone seems like common sense, but there seems to be a handful of people that hold the belief that Bubbline is the sole arc of importance in the entire series. For me personally, I enjoy the relationship between the two, for the most part. I think they have a nice, charismatic dynamic, and a decent history that’s both believable and quite poignant. Though, like any other character, story arc, or plot point in the series, I’m not going to act like it’s sheer and utter perfection. And I think this episode, while not bad by any means, shows that the two working off of each other isn’t always especially raw or endearing, and in fact, I think it’s a little clunky in execution. I bring this up simply because, as these reviews go on, I’m not really going to aimlessly praise every scene featuring Bubbline as an undeniable masterpiece. At best, I think they can provide for a likable connection between two opposites. At worst, I think their chemistry with each other can somewhat fluctuate and/or feel slightly forced.

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I think the main issue with the way the two are portrayed in this one is that I’m never completely emotionally invested in the two. I think the writing is a bit schizophrenic and never really lets the moments that are supposed to be a bit more powerful and effective come across that way. PB talking down Hambo to Marceline should’ve been a pretty harsh and heart-wrenching speech, though it’s glanced over pretty quickly and isn’t really given enough time to explore. Whereas the ending, where PB suddenly decides that she isn’t leaving without Hambo and heroically rescues Marceline’s stuffed animal comes across as a bit rushed to me. I mean, it’s obvious that PB does care about Marceline and doesn’t want to hurt her at the end of the day, but I thought her transition from “Hambo’s fucking stupid, let’s leave” to “AW, HELL NAW, AM I LEAVING WITHOUT HAMBO” feels slightly bipolar. This is one of those instances where PB’s detachment feels kind of detrimental to some of the more challenging aspects of the episode; we want to see PB be charismatic and care for Marceline, though she’s written so apathetically that I never feel like I know what I’m supposed to feel. The parts that are supposed to be more emotional and build on the connection between the two just feel… lacking.

But, what this one lacks in emotion, it makes up for with some pretty humorous interactions between the two gals. PB’s bitchiness is amped-up in this one, and boy, is it tons of fun to watch. I love her passiveness towards something that means so much to Marceline, considering PB probably doesn’t have much of an emotional connection to her material possessions as others would. I also love her brutal roast of Raggedy Princess, it comes so out of left field. This is really when PB’s “cold-hearted” behavior starts to come out in full force, and I think it’s a pretty gradual transition at that.

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Marceline, on the other hand, is characterized just alright. Jesse Moynihan once said that he struggles to write for Marceline the most, and I think it kind of shows. Not to say she’s written poorly, but I don’t she’s portrayed as very interesting either. I do enjoy the way she seems to struggle when first asking PB to spend some quality time with her, as it’s pretty clear that she hasn’t completely warmed up to the idea of being close to PB again, and that it’s somewhat of a pain to try and connect with her. Again, these are moments that I wish were emphasized a tad more. I think some of those moments are brought down by some pretty awkwardly written moments for Marcy. Her emphasis of how important it is to rescue Hambo goes on a bit too long for my liking, and her insistence of bopping PB on the head seems a bit too… goofy for her. I mean, Marceline does have her silly moments, though not to the degree that the other characters are able to. She’s more deadpan and snarky than straightforward zany.

I think this is one where the settings are pretty dope; where the typical AT forest is usually bright and colorful, this one features a darker, more desolate forest that I think is actually a nice touch for a change. In addition to that, Maja’s mansion is pretty dope. Aside from the cool anti-gravitational landscape, I like all the small details, like the fact that Maja is a clear collector/hoarder. There’s also a portrait of the ghost lady from The Creeps that I’m not sure how it ended up in Maja’s possession, but I’m assuming she just wandered across it while casually traveling around in Ooo one day.

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Maja herself is good fun; she’s voiced by Jill Talley, who is actually Tom Kenny’s wife and the voice of Karen on SpongeBob SquarePants. Talley, per usual, offers great talent to the character of Maja, that’s only added to by the demonic double voice she delivers under her regular voice. Reminds me of HIM from The Powerpuff Girls. Maja’s Crabbit is an interesting concept as well, though again, I think his presence in the episode could’ve been a little more interesting. I kinda wish he did return with Maja later on in the series, as I would’ve liked to continue to see him as her buttmonkey companion.

What this one boils down to is a mildly fun adventure focused episode. I think it could’ve been stronger, considering we only get so many Marcy and Bubblegum interaction episodes until season 7, but otherwise, I think it’s fine. In terms of what Bubbline shippers like to see, I don’t even think there’s a ton you can analyze or look deeper into. There’s the completely odd moment at the beginning where PB inhales the shit out of Marceline’s shirt, but I think that just kind of comes off as awkward and ill-fitting than charming or likable. It’s a light and fun quest that serves as some tasty fluff to prepare for when things go completely off the walls in the next episode.

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Favorite line: “My googoomamameter is going babies!”

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“Wizard’s Only, Fools” Review

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Original Airdate: July 1, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Thomas Welmann

Wizard’s Only, Fools cleverly uses wizardry and science to elaborate on the topic of “religion vs. logic,” which is a motif I’m always interested to see touched upon. Though, it is one that can often end up with polarizing results, considering that most shows would either lean in one way or the other. Thankfully, Adventure Time handles this without seeming preachy or having an ultimatum, and feels more like a story that shows off both sides of the argument without really siding with either.

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I’ve mentioned before in my review of The Suitor that this season has been pretty lacking on strong PB episodes, which is a shame, because last season was full of ‘em! But the princess returns to the spotlight in this one and sports a more condescending and pretentious attitude, which is really enjoyable to watch. I can see most people viewing PB as uncharismatically cruel, as she talks down to those who have certain beliefs, and ultimately ends up getting herself and her friends arrested as a result of her stubbornness. To me, it makes her so much more admirable. Everything PB has experienced, even down to her own birth, as well as everything she has created and invented has all been a direct result of her scientific prowess. None of her people have been created through what most would consider to be “magic,” so therefore, in her 800 years of existing, she has always relied on science as her guide and the key to life. So it is quite lovely to watch her so passionately stick up for what she believes in, especially when it means putting her life into potential danger.

Though, her arrogance shows that, while it is admirable to stick up for what you believe in and to defend your own standards, it sometimes is less selfish and more selfless to suck up your own pride and give in to society’s standards. It isn’t really the right choice, but it could’ve shown PB and her friends justice if she just simply complied with the Grand Master Wizard’s request. While we’re on the subject, did his voice sound different in this one? It’s still Maurice LaMarche, but his inflections sound radically different from his first appearance and his subsequent appearance. Quite odd, but back on subject, I don’t think PB is necessarily unlikable or cruel in this one. Despite her ego taking over her logic and sense of compassion in some instances, the entire reason she is going on this endeavor at all is for one of her people. Her asking Starchy, “you still think I’m a jerk?” was incredibly cute and really showcased PB’s soft side. Even through her density, the happiness of her people is important to her, and she probably wouldn’t be able to just continue on with her work if Starchy was still mad at her.

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Finn and Jake mostly just serve as sidekicks in this one, though in the best possible way. Finn is actually a pretty great source of comic relief; he’s a little bit of a jokester in this one! I like his constant fake-outs, “Let’s stay home-just kidding,” and when he briefly gives up while trying to get past the Wizard City wall. I also like him questioning if PB was straight-up naked. It was something that was on my mind as well, though is even better that Finn brings this up while they’re under pursuit of the Wizard City Police. Jake, on the other hand, mostly serves as an adversary towards PB, and I always like the somewhat hostile differences Jake and PB have at times! It also makes sense that Jake, an alleged magic user, would combat Bubblegum’s thinking process and see her as someone who is entirely stubborn in her beliefs. It also makes sense that he would resent her for the decision she made against the Grand Master Wizard; Jake has somewhat of a strong belief system too, but he’s a pretty chill and laid back guy and would probably do whatever is easiest for him to get out of trouble. It’s the bickering between the two that I always enjoy to see, even more so than Jake’s relationship with Marceline.

Abracadaniel returns as a supporting character in this one, and I wasn’t really a fan of him in his first appearance, and I’m still not much of a fan of him here. Though, it isn’t an appearance that the episode or the story really depends on. I do actually enjoy how he gets wrapped up in PB, Finn and Jake’s conflict; I was critical of Candy Streets for its mean-spirited punishment of the character Pete Sassafras, though Abracadaniel’s such a dork/buttmonkey as always that I don’t really mind when he gets the bad end of the stick. It’s kind of what his character exists to do. And honestly, if I was for some reason running from the police, fuck yeah, I’d grab the first person I know and ask them for help! Not saying I have been… heh… heh heh.

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The Secret Wizard Society returns in this one, as their plans only get increasingly more ambiguous and rather intriguing. It is noteworthy that their board shows Abracadaniel getting sacrificed in regards to whatever they are planning. I remember by the time Betty arrived, a lot of people were wondering if Abracadaniel had been killed, yet he has made several appearances subsequently. Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded if they just killed him off. He’s not a character I particularly care for, but besides that, how fucked up would it be if his character was never seen or mentioned again after Betty? That’d be quite the dark scenario, but one I’m not opposed to.

A lot of Wizard’s Only, Fools is just simply enjoying the atmosphere and the culture of Wizard City, which, as usual, looks great. This is also the introduction of Ron James, a very quirky, fun addition to the cast of Wizard characters. I enjoy Ron James’ lingo (I’m just now realizing that there’s three characters in this show with “James” in their name and I’m not sure how to feel about it) and how he’s about as equally passionate about magic as PB is about science. The Wizard City prison is a really nice ominous setting, and in fact, I think the use of color in this one is just great. I like the darker shadows in the wizard cultists’ lair, the bright whites in Grand Master Wizard’s dome, and the reds, browns, and oranges that permeate throughout the prison. There’s a lot of different places and landscapes in this one, so using color to help make them pop is a decision AT typically excels at. And as always, there’s the little things, like the many different wizards you can spot within the backgrounds. You can tell Jesse Moynihan had a lot of fun with this episode, and Thomas Wellman, who previously wrote and storyboarded for The Suitor, provided some splendid drawings for this one. I dunno why Wellmann only wrote two episodes of Adventure Time, because I actually have really enjoyed his work on this episode and The Suitor. Writing aside, he’s got some really nice, expressive drawings, especially on Jake.

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The conclusion of this episode features PB finally giving in, though not the way we quite expected. She tried the best she could to help Starchy, though it failed, and it was either her way or the highway. Again, it seems like somewhat of a cruel ending to give Starchy the antidote against his will, but remember, this is PB we’re talkin’ about. She could literally just say “fuck it” and clone another Starchy if the first one for some reason died off. I mean, that might be drastic because it’s just a cold, but still. PB’s care for her people will not allow her to allow them suffer, and though she tried to make Starchie satisfied, there comes a point where you just have to accept treatment as it is.

So yeah, this one’s a lot of fun! Besides being an interesting allegory towards religion, it’s pretty much just a ball all the way through. Fun characters, some hilarious moments (I still crack up at PB forcing Ice King to give her the password to get into Wizard City), and a terrific setting that really helps it excel, Wizard’s Only Fools is a fun trip to Wizard City that highlights PB’s personality and her character flaws quite seamlessly.

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That’s the first half of season five, folks! I was seriously considering if I should break this season up and review them separately, and ya know what, I think I’m gonna do it. 5.1 and 5.2 are so wildly different in tone and direction that it only makes sense to give input on them separately, so the next review that will come out will be the season 5.1 review! There won’t be any mini-review to go along with it like there has been with the past few seasons, as this review is kind of already a cheat as it is. The season review will be out later in the week, but until then, thank you all for continuing to read this blog! Really enjoy hearing your input every week, and I’m happy to have gotten this far in the series. About half of Adventure Time is left, so hopefully I can tackle it completely throughout the next year or two!

Favorite line: “You know, no one has touched me in months. Could you touch me again?”

“One Last Job” Review

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Original Airdate: June 10, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

One Last Job makes a full eleven minutes out of the often mentioned life of crime that Jake lived before he matured. Being something that was mostly treated as a gag and not an actual solid part of Jake’s character, this episode harps off of great continuity points within the show’s history, though it doesn’t really make for a particularly noteworthy entry in my eyes.

It’s pretty sweet that the entire conflict is driven by putting Jake Jr. in a captive situation. We haven’t seen the kids at all since Jake the Dad, so it was a nice way to reintroduce one of the pups and to put Jake in the position of a caring father. I enjoy how, despite his current feelings towards committing crimes and obstructing the law, the one driving factor that forces him to turn back is because that his daughter’s life is possibly on the line.

The episode takes a good bit of time developing the actual personalities of Jake’s gang members, and while I think it’s all pretty serviceable, I don’t really find any of these old colleagues particularly that interesting in design, or even character.

Gareth’s outlandishly big, detailed head is a somewhat silly sight gag, though it almost feels like it’s retreading Ricardio’s design of the “super detailed face.” Gareth’s voiced by Sam Marin, and Marin, who has some pretty decent vocal range, gives a pretty bland delivery. Marin had already voiced Clarence on the show before, and I’m not sure why they kept bringing him on if they were just going to keep making him perform the same delivery over and over again. Marin has some awesome voices under his belt, so why not allow him to whip them out? Also, I’m not really sure why we took the time to learn about Gareth’s possession ability if it never really had any part in the actual heist. Just seems like a missed opportunity.

The Flying Lettuce Brothers are a bit more interesting, providing for the most effective use of their character in relation to the actual plot itself. I like their introduction sequence, especially with the moody girl and her boss’s exchange at the Squeeze-E-Mart. I know I just mentioned it being detrimental for Sam Marin to use the same voice over and over, but I really never get tired of Pen Ward’s raspy voice being used to scream the lines of random tertiary characters. I quite enjoy how the boss of the Squeeze-E-Mart also apparently doesn’t open doors either, he just casually walks through glass.

And then there’s Tiffany, who I myself am not really a big fan of. I don’t really get into his long-winded monologues and his inner angst, and I think a lot of it has to do with his voice. Don’t get me wrong, Collin Dean’s voice is absolutely fine; Greg from Over the Garden Wall happens to be one of my favorite characters of all time. Yet, I think using that child voice to read off lines that are pretty much just constant bitching and moaning can get a little grating to me. Though, he does have his redeemable moments. I do enjoy his connection with Jake, and how Tiffany practically feels abandoned and misguided without him. Tiffany was obviously a lot younger when Jake first came into the picture, and when he left the gang, Tiffany presumably had thought of him like a big brother. It’s somewhat somber putting the pieces together like that, and I think it makes for a pretty interesting dynamic.

The break-in scene in general goes on a little too long. I do like the head Banana Guard being splashed with banana milk and actually enjoying it, but the Banana Guards screaming, outside of a few neat drawings, just isn’t really funny enough to hold onto for a whole minute. Once Jake gets inside, however, I think the episode as a whole picks up a bit more. And most of it comes from some really terrific storyboarding from Ako Castuera. I love the side-scrolling expedition Jake takes to reach the baker’s shard; AT has done many video game references up to this point, but this is one that still feels fresh, new, and visually appealing. And after it’s revealed that Jake’s gang is the one who crossed him, the entire chase sequence that follows is just terrific. One gag that Jesse Moynihan would always mention that makes no sense is the scene where Jake morphs through the prison bars and comes out in one piece, though it’s one that’s so fun and appealing that it doesn’t bother me the least bit that it technically doesn’t add up. Hell, most of Jake’s shape shifting doesn’t make any sense. But it’s a cartoon, dammit!

After some more great shots of a giant Jake chasing the truck, Jake finds out that Jake Jr. double-crossed the double-crossers to impress her pops… Though, I gotta wonder, how did Jake Jr. know about Jake’s criminal past in the first place? I somewhat doubt Jake talks to her enough to share it with her, and it would also surprise me if Lady shared such a story about Jake Jr.’s father to her. Though, it’s not one that bothers me much, and I do think the ending is pretty cute. This is the first one-on-one connection between Jake and one of his pups that we’ve actually seen, and it’s quite endearing. While Jake’s relationship with his kids is almost always awkward on some level, it seems like him and Jake Jr. get along quite fondly (well, in this instance; we’ll get to the next episode soon) and it doesn’t take much with Jake Jr.’s rambunctious personality at hand.

Overall, however, I think this one’s just ‘ight. Besides the sprinkles of fun and enjoyable moments throughout, I don’t think they took advantage of this idea as much as they possibly could have. The idea of Jake being a criminal in the past is a really interesting concept, and I sadly don’t think the choices they made are very interesting at all. It plays off like a pretty generic heist scenario, and I don’t think the interactions between the gang members (besides the aforementioned Tiffany and Jake bond) or Jake’s portrayal in general really differentiate between anything we haven’t already seen in these types of stories. It’s sad that an episode about Jake’s past history has so little for me to take away in terms of intriguing Jake content, and considering he’s a character whose past history and depth we know or understand the least about, this one ultimately leaves me wanting more.

Three episodes in a row where Finn barely has a role! This was somewhat of an oddity at the time, though it would become more of a regularity. I only wish we got to see more of his primitive noise band.

Favorite line: “‘Cause when you get older you’re supposed to get in other stuff, like graphic design, or pottery.”

“The Suitor” Review

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Original Airdate: May 20, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Thomas Wellmann & Jesse Moynihan

UPDATE: I was informed this one was actually storyboarded by Thomas Wellman, instead of Ako Castuera. This post was updated for accuracy.

PB’s remained mostly in the background of the first half of season five. Despite having plenty of minor appearance here and there, and appearing as a major player during the guest animated episode A Glitch is a Glitch, there hasn’t really been anything new or telling about her character that season four so seamlessly pulled off. The Suitor takes PB back to the spotlight, revolving around the status of her love life while also introducing a likable newcomer. It’s an interesting tale of love and patience, and for what this one was going for, I think they pulled it off greatly.

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I especially love the beginning, and any other moments that revolve around Peppermint Butler’s dark deeds with the demon Ogdoad. Prior to this episode, we’ve only ever seen hints and allusions to Pepbut’s ominous nature, though this one really kicks off his strange behavior by having him summon a demon in the first 10 seconds of the episode. And I love the way it’s stage: the guardian angel from Dungeon is there, as well as animals that look menacing and starved, with a clueless Cinnamon Bun at the center of it all. It’s just the kind of delicious obtuse behavior that I wanted to see from the little peppermint man. What’s also tons of fun is watching him interact with the Gumball Guardian. The Guardian has never really been given a solid personality aside from the fact that he puts his all into protecting the kingdom. Here, he acts like an actual guardian of the princess and of the kingdom, which is a pretty interesting dynamic they chose to work with. He goes from a subservient assistant to an overprotective parent of the princess. I especially enjoy his line, “the Candy Kingdom worries for its leader, and it worries for you, dark one.” The bickering between the Gumball Guardian and Peppermint Butler is a lot of fun throughout the entirety of the episode, and I wish we could see more instances of it in subsequent episodes. I can think of a few of the comics, namely Issue #11 of the Adventure Time Comics series where this dynamic is brought back, but aside from that, this is the only in-universe instance.

The suitors who have been waiting for a countless amount of years once again pose the interesting query of “just how fucking old is PB?” which once again is glanced over with subtlety. It’s where we’re introduced to Braco, the main protagonist of the episode. As far as Braco goes, he’s pretty likable; I enjoy how the episode goes to great lengths to kind of make him seem pathetic and obsessive, yet still make him kind of rootable. I admire him for all the death-defying stunts he’ll put himself through just for PB’s affection, even if it is foolhardy at best. But most interesting is that, while I do root for Braco in this one, it is pretty obvious that he doesn’t actually love Bubblegum, and the show knows that. When he’s first introduced to PB, she immediately acknowledges that he’s “infatuated” with her, and his only feelings of love for her come from a relationship that he’s created inside his mind. I think most people can relate to this – I know I can – and I think the episode and the direction of the writing is smart for not treating this like any typical love story. It acknowledges that, while Braco probably does have some real feelings for the princess, he’s more lonely and naive about love than anything, and instead is looking to fill that void and desire with fabricated tales of true love that he’s convinced himself of.

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These stories can sometimes be insufferable with just how much of an awkward doofus the hopeless romantic can be; Jamie’s first appearance in Steven Universe definitely comes to mind. Yet, I find that, while there are a couple of instances where Braco is portrayed as an awkward doofus, he’s still fun to watch and actually a pretty poignant character throughout the episode’s run. I like his little observatory where he writes in his journal and documents his feelings, and I think it’s pretty sweet that he turned to his late grandfather for tips on how to win a girl’s love, even if it failed miserably. And okay, how long ago did this guy die?? Jake’s been alive for what, 14 human years, and were supposed to believe that at some point he wrote this book under an alternative ego that was the key to Braco’s grandad’s luck with the ladies?? It makes no sense! It’s by all means something that only I’m confused about and no one else is, but still! J.T. Doggzone will never fail to flabbergast me.

Finn’s brief bit in the episode is something I do find really interesting, mainly because he’s totally jealous. It’s already been pretty well established that Finn isn’t totally over PB at all, so watching him somewhat unsuccessfully try and act like he doesn’t care was really quite telling of where he is in his developmental stage. And I’m glad they kept Finn’s jealousy to a minimum; had it take up the course of an entire episode, it might’ve been frustrating and a bit unlikable, but here we just get a brief 30 seconds of Finn trying to pull off a farce and then smack talking Braco for a bit. It’s a bit petty of him, but he’s a 14-year-old boy with hormonal imbalances. I’m actually surprised he turned out this well. I also love his brief bit of nihilistic wisdom to Braco, “the path you’re on leads to nowhere,” which also includes Finn allowing Braco to take on the task. I dunno what Finn’s intentions were; it could be that he knew Braco wasn’t going to get anywhere, but let him go on the quest for shits and giggles, or that he actually wanted to see Braco succeed where he failed. I’d lean more toward the first option, though I wouldn’t be completely opposed to the second either. I also like how they’re able to incorporate Jake into these bits exceptionally well. Jake doesn’t even have a line, though his facial reactions to Finn’s uncomfortable behavior are just terrific. I love how he’s somewhat skeptical about Finn, while also simultaneously concerned for him.

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The task for the soul stone is a very neat one. Vapor Swamps is a pretty dope looking landscape, with hints that an old city once existed there. The swamp monsters are also pretty visually interesting. They all have a sort of Muppet look to them, which makes them feel straight out of Labrynth or The Dark Crystal. The Beast is especially cool, though I can’t think of that name without immediately imagining Over the Garden Wall. The way Braco reasons with the Beast about his love for Bubblegum seems like it’s going in the direction where he’s just going to get beat up and suffer more, though I enjoy how the Beast actually lets him go because of it. Wonder what that fuzzy monster’s backstory is.

Though Braco goes through a decent amount of pain throughout this one, it never feels mean-spirited or like it’s mistreating Braco. He willingly puts himself into situations that aren’t meant for him to be apart of, and instead of just sitting back and being patient, he instead throws himself into instant suffering. The epitome of his pain comes from when Peppermint Butler strikes a deal with Ogdoad to make Braco a walking love magnet. What I really like about the revelations surrounding Pepbut in this one is that it’s made very obvious that, while he has a fascination with dark magic, he’s still just kind of a cool guy who puts his loyalty towards PB before anything else. I think people had in their minds that Peppermint Butler was going to be one of the big bads at the end of the series that would take on the role of main villain, though I think that’s somewhat against his character. He’s perfectly conscious of his dark habits, and though it can stray in a path of borderline menacing at times, he still would never put the princess or her kingdom in a state of jeopardy. He’s Peppermint “Butler”, after all.

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Braco pays the ultimate price for love, and ultimately, it still doesn’t win over the princess. It’s another great step in the lesson of not sacrificing yourself or your dignity for the love of another person, because 9/10, that person still isn’t going to come around. But, through all the mental and physical pain he endures, he still gets a PB robot that he can fuck all he likes for the rest of his life. Yippee!

I’ve kept quiet about PB’s actual depiction in this one on purpose, mostly ‘cause I wanted to save it for last. I think she’s portrayed quite perfectly in this one! While I’m sure some people have targeted her for supposedly being unlikable and putting Braco through hurdles of pain, that’s not what I got at all from this one. Again, everything Braco did was completely against what PB wanted. She gave the task to find the soul stone to Finn and Jake, who she knew would be able to grab it without a problem. Braco took on the task without having the prowess or keen sense of heroism that the two boys had, and suffered for it. PB also had no idea that Braco was going to completely distort his appearance for her love, which again, was his own choice. She devoted all of her energy and science to creating what Braco wanted most, and if that isn’t some enlightening motherly attention, I don’t know what is.

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I think the episode does a great job at showing her stress and isolation. She has to consistently focus her attention on running an entire kingdom (all while taking care of a caged Phil) and the idea of sacrificing her kingdom for romance just isn’t strategically possible for her. I get the feeling that, from the last scene, she did have feelings for Braco that went beyond just caring for him as a Candy Person. She probably saw potential in him that she saw in any former love interest, though she knew she couldn’t act on it because “responsibility demands sacrifice.” We were all expecting a sad ending from Braco, but I think in the end, I mostly feel bad for PB. She wants to be carefree, giddy, and naive like Braco once was, but her impact on her kingdom and her people is unfortunately more of a priority for her. Though I doubt anything hurt as much as Peppermint Butler’s bitch-slap. Man, was that hilarious.

So yeah, I think this one’s pretty great. Really nice characterization of each of the characters that are focused on, and just some all around solid writing from Jesse Moynihan and Thomas Wellmann. You can really tell that they have a pretty deep understanding of unrequited love and infatuation, and it really shines through in this episode. This one also features a special outro, written and sung by Moynihan, with backup vocals by Ako Castuera. It’s a really nice tune, check it out here if you haven’t before.

Favorite line: “Well, you paid the price, no doubt, and I wanna have your babies.”

“The Great Bird Man” Review

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Original Airdate: March 4, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Jesse Moynihan

Xergiok was a pretty one-note character during his first appearance in The Silent King, so it’s somewhat odd that they brought him back for another spotlight appearance in this one. I mean, it’s not completely out of the ordinary for AT to do; look at Magic Man, who started off as this really one-dimensional jerk and is now what I consider to be one of the show’s most complex characters. That goes for many of Adventure Time’s characters, to say the least, and with Jesse Moynihan behind the helm of this one, who is also behind giving Magic Man so much depth, it just ultimately seemed to make sense. However, this one kind of ends up just being pretty dull.

Part of the issue is, well, I just still don’t find Xergiok that interesting at all. He was okay in his first appearance, but I’m not sure as to why we’re supposed to care for him otherwise. I get what they’re going for here; I think the concept of someone attempting to change their life around after something drastic happens to them is a pretty interesting concept, and the idea of whether they’ve actually changed inside and out is always an intriguing inquiry. But again, I go back to my first statement that Xergiok isn’t really that interesting of a character, and it’s hard to sympathize with him at all when we barely know anything about him to begin with. This plot could’ve been done a lot better with maybe Ice King or even Magic Man, but it baffles me as to why they chose this character to be a representative for this theme.

The plot and motif also seem pretty weak as well. I’m not even really completely sure what to gather from it in the end. That you should leave your old life behind completely and never (literally) look back again? That change is hard, so you have to commit yourself fully to new ideas or you won’t be able to make a difference? I dunno, whatever it is, I couldn’t really gather anything that cohesive. I actually really do like the idea that Xergiok’s life turned around once he lost his sight, but I don’t feel like there were any interesting allegories or metaphors that actually came from it. Just a pretty straight forward story that ends more with a whimper than a bang.

I wouldn’t really desire a deeper meaning so much if this episode was fun, but sadly, I think it’s a bit middling when it comes to entertainment. It has its moments: I still fucking love the idea of Xergiok breastfeeding, and feel like it’s one of the most single shocking gross out jokes in the series. There’s also some good Finn and Jake moments as always, like Finn tossing the communicator that PB gave to him ala The Other Tarts or Jake discussing his cool ex-girlfriend that knew Braille, which I’m assuming is Monniker. There’s other jokey bits that don’t really work for me, like Xergiok’s psychedelic song in the sky, which I thought was just kind of dumb. I usually like whatever trippy and psychedelic shit JMoyns has to offer for this show, but Xergiok’s singing voice kind of kills it and the lyrics themselves aren’t that interesting or poetic. I also thought the ending, which was funny on an absurdist level that also tied the beginning and the end together, was somewhat of a lazy conclusion to Xergiok’s story. I like it in the sense that it offers the simple solution to loneliness, which is finding someone to be with, but it was clearly thrown in there as a silly finishing gag that doesn’t really address Xergiok’s still remaining issues at all.

I actually really like the backdrops in this one. Time of day plays a really big part with the sky scenes, as we get to see nightfall, sunrise, sunset, daytime, and a lot of different brightly colored backgrounds that just look lovely. I also like the designs of the birds as well. They could’ve easily made regular birds look gigantic, but in typical AT fashion, they’ve created some really unique looking feathered friends, with giant noses and pointed ears. I also enjoy how they’re all named after flavors and tastes, signaling that Xergiok likely has a stronger sense of taste because of his disability.

I think this one definitely has missed potential and lacks an overall feeling of fun. I think this could’ve so easily been a more interesting episode if it just had focused on the right character for the story, but Xergiok simply isn’t a character that can hold any kind of weight to himself. It’s no wonder that he hasn’t appeared once since this episode. It’s a dry F&J expedition that ends up not really having a ton to say by episode’s end.

Favorite line: “The mermaids are trying to beach themselves. I came to see why. Turns out they’re just lonely.”

“Mystery Dungeon” Review

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Original Airdate: January 21, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

Adventure Time has the benefit of having a very compelling cast of secondary characters, so the idea that we won’t be getting a typical Finn and Jake adventure is never something that’s dreaded. That’s why when I saw there would be an episode that starred Ice King, Tree Trunks, Lemongrab, NEPTR, AND Shelby, I instantly said to myself, “this is going to be the greatest episode of all time.” While that may have been a gross exaggeration, it definitely is a great comedic outing for the season and series in general.

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What makes this such a strong episode is really just blending all of these unique personalities together. Lemongrab’s histrionic behavior, Ice King’s loneliness, Tree Trunks’ slow mind, Shelby’s sarcasm, and NEPTR’s optimism all work off of each other just great, and individually they work just as well. It’d be silly to not talk about each character and what makes their presence work in this one, so I’ll take a look at them one by one.

This is probably Lemongrab’s most straightforward funny appearance outside of his debut. Lemongrab is mostly utilized for psychological and somewhat antagonistic reasons in his featured episodes, but this one mostly focuses on just how unusual and loud the sad lemon man is. And boy, does it pay off. I think this is arguably his funniest appearance in the series, only adding to his already over-the-top behavior, including him punching a rat, eating a pie out of the rat’s mouth, and constantly referring to people as his slaves. He really is the biggest tyrant ever featured in the series, and it’s emphasized in this one for added hilarity. I think his desire to rule others in this one, as well as You Made Me, are really what drive his further desires to have complete control over others in future episodes.

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I just noticed something. NEPTR is fucking sweating. What a ludicrous visual.

NEPTR is, as always, a lovable loser. It’s a fucking crime against society that this is his only appearance in season five, because every time he’s on-screen, it’s just delightful. And I’m so glad they took advantage of the NEPTR-Ice King dynamic once again; I assumed that was something that was just going to be virtually ignored, but it’s nice to see that, even after NEPTR chose Finn and Jake, he still has positive feelings toward his “poppy.” Even more fitting is seeing that the Ice King doesn’t remember him even slightly, and even sadder is that NEPTR wasn’t supposed to be included at all! If there’s one character in this show that’s sadder than Ice King, it’s NEPTR man. It hurts my soul when Ice King calls him a “useless pile of junk.” Though, it’s nice to see that he and his poppy get a happy ending. It’s pretty sweet that NEPTR actually remembered something that Ice King taught him.

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Tree Trunks brings her usual dimwitted old-person-ness to the table, and I like how her role is virtually useless as well. Like, would her ability to make apple pies have really saved her and the others from a giant rat? It’s likely not. She did provide the grossest sequence in the entire episode when she snorted a dollop of snot, or “essence” into Lemongrab’s mouth, which still kind of has me scratching my head to this day. How did she know that would even work? I enjoy her long-winded monologue aimed at Ice King, but mainly for the fact that her slow speech patterns and demeanor just completely divert the attention of everyone watching her. It’s like, I as an audience member even have trouble following her unfocused babble, and the characters humorously follow in the same direction.

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Shelby brings a bit of sarcastic edge to this one, and I truly think he’s the shining star. I really appreciate his dry-wit and his attitude of “I could give less than a fuck,” throughout the entire episode. Probably the biggest laugh I get out of this one is the fake-out where it seems like Shelby’s going to volunteer to be on the fishing line, and then it immediately cuts to Tree Trunks. That was a terrific bit with great timing and payoff.

And of course, the man who concocted this whole plan himself, the Ice King. I have to give him props for his insanely convoluted plan, and how it, for the most part, works. It’s a strangely competent plan for the likes of the IK, despite the fact that he clearly didn’t wasn’t paying attention when he grabbed NEPTR, because he doesn’t look a thing like BMO. And tying the entire plan back to Ice King’s desire to bring Fionna and Cake into the real world was pure genius. Though, my only gripe with this is that it would’ve made much more sense coming after Bad Little Boy than before. I’m not sure what came first in production order, but now that episode just has a somewhat confusingly foreshadow-y ending with no real payoff. Though, the payoff in this one with the book coming alive at the literal hands of the Ancient Sleeping Magis of Life Giving (his first appearance!) was deeply hilarious, and I know this pissed a lot of people off, but c’mon, you have to at least snicker a bit at his incessant flatulence and Mickey Mouse gloves and voice.

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As I mentioned, I think the episode ends on a perfectly sweet note with NEPTR reminding Ice King about his imagination zone. Also on a hilarious note, as Lemongrab makes an extremely abrupt departure and utters, “byedon’tfollowme,” and Finn, Jake, and Shelby watch the Ice King and lament over how sad he is, and how sad they are watching him.

It’s worth noting that this is a “Dungeon” episode, and while the actual dungeon itself isn’t the focus of the episode, they do manage to craft a relatively creative area filled with traps, neat looking beasts, and cool landscapes. It’s far from the coolest dungeon AT has ever put out, but again, the focus of the episode is the humor, not necessarily the visuals.

And aside from that, I have remarkably little to say. This is just an all around funny episode filled with great jokes, characterization, interactions, and twists. It’d be pointless of me to go through every great joke or line in this one, because there’s so Goddamn many of them. So here’s a special Favorite line section filled with some of the episode’s greatest bits of dialogue.

Favorite line(s):

“Check out my mods, bro!”

“Ice King, how do you taste?”

“Make pies, slave.”

“Golly, how we ever gonna worm our way out of this… fishy situation?”

“Don’t criticize my running, Shelby.”

“So stop sellin’ fib-bibs and give it straight!”

“You should’ve told us! I would’ve freaking brought something!”

“You serve no function, you must be destroyed.”

“Who in this world is sadder than the Ice King?” “Me, watching this.”

“All the Little People” Review

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Original Airdate: December 3, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

There’s a certain amount of criteria that must be met for an episode of AT to rank among my all-time favorites. It needs to:

  1. Be different from the show’s usual formula, while still retaining the charm and delightful characterization of any regular episode.
  2. Capture everything that makes the series so special, including good humor, heart, charismatic characters, and thought-provoking material.
  3. Be unique to anything else I’ve ever seen on television.

While there’s certainly plenty of episodes that meet parts of this criteria, only a select few meet all three individual points. All the Little People, with its very dark and uncomfortable approach at capturing Finn’s constantly evolving adolescence, hits on all of these points. It still takes place in the Land of Ooo and follows the latest debacle of our two main heroes, but rather than fighting a physical enemy or solving some sort of quest, Finn instead has to battle with his own identity and how much control he should be able to have over other people. It gets heavy-handed and grim, but remains bright and colorful throughout, and still captures the quirkiness, heart, and depth of our main boys. And I can’t think of a single series that captures a teenager’s fascination with relationships, combined with the the act of manipulation and the question of power so delicately and perfectly. It lands right up there with Sons of Mars, I Remember You, and Incendium on my personal group of favorites.

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Right from the title card, it’s hard not to be left with an ominous feelings of what’s ahead. The picture itself appears innocent and playful, as Magic Man designs toys (the Little People) of Finn and others. The music cue is what really makes the artwork feel significant and impactful. The entire episode’s soundtrack derives from the tune of a quarter-tone piano, and the title card itself includes a sample of it. Once the loud and hollow cue of a bass-drum goes off during this sample, you really get a feeling of “oh shit, something big is going down.” I don’t give the composers of this show, Tim Kiefer and Casey James, enough credit in these reviews, but they really did a stupendous job in particular with the score for this episode. The entire score feels unwelcoming, and really compliments the the tone and atmosphere of the actual episode.

The beginning of the episode starts off with a beautifully lit sunset, as the boys sit wistfully by a cliff and discuss relationships. I really love how the main story of this episode is set up by Finn asking simple and innocent questions about relationships and how they work. Though he’s involved in a committed relationship, Finn is only fourteen, and wildly inexperienced. He still has much time before he is able to grasp the fundamentals of a successful and healthy relationship, and still has many questions on how he will be able to achieve such a relationship. It’s interesting to see that, while he deeply cares for Flame Princess, it seems he may have some doubts about his relationship. He and FP have great chemistry, but still are wildly different in nature and interests. Jake, being someone who has tons of life experience and knows what a healthy relationship should consist of, gives Finn the most simple and surprisingly most logic answer of “just go with your heart.” It’s a sweet moment between the brothers that showcases the differences of the boys in the best ways possible, and clearly captures early on that Jake understands the matrix of relationships, while Finn may not be able to fully understand yet.

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This is where Magic Man makes his brief entrance, while he enjoys the boys’ conversation and even shares a laugh with them. Even to this day, it’s hard to understand what exactly Magic Man’s motivation is, whether to teach Finn a lesson in responsibility, or simply to fuck with his life as always. There’s tons of different angles you can take with it, but probably my favorite is just simply the idea that Magic Man wanted to show Finn what it’s like to have power over other people. Magic Man is constantly ruining the lives of others and playing god by using his magic to determine the destiny of others, so he’s now showing Finn how easy it is to take things out of control and abuse the power one does have over other living beings.  

Before Magic Man departs, he states, “I’m not coming back.”

And yeah, there’s tons of different moments I can point out to when it comes to allusions to Finn’s sexual awakening; Finn’s reaction to Jake noticing that he has something in his pants, the way Finn shakes the little people, yadda yadda. To mention it all would be somewhat redundant. It’s all there and all pretty obvious, but I think there are way more interesting bits regarding Finn’s identity as a hero and as person than just pointing to any scene that references Finn’s horny, teen urges. It’s a fun glimpse at how much they were able to get past the radar, but it’d be silly to waste a ton of time highlighting anything that y’all probably already thought about the minute you saw it.

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The most interesting aspect is really just the way Finn interacts with the Little People. I enjoy how the Little People are versions of pre-existing characters we already know. They could’ve just went full-on Sims and had these miniature versions be any random customized figurines, but the fact that they are citizens of Ooo helps us connect to them more emotionally, while still being able to disconnect them from their grown counterpart. The Peanuts adult speech patterns of the Little People are cute and endearing, and really help to separate them from appearing to be sentient beings. As Finn continuously says throughout the episode, “they’re just toys,” which shows his ignorance towards understanding that the Little People are anything besides just that: interactive figures for the pleasures of Finn and Jake. Had the Little People been speaking English as opposed to their trademark “wa wa wa’s,” I think Finn’s actions would easily be more despicable and unpleasant, but the fact that the distinction is there makes it seem more understandable that Finn would want to use them however he likes. I mean, being honest, who wouldn’t want to interact with these characters the way that Finn is? Having a tiny bag containing little versions of all the people you know would be dangerously intriguing, which makes Finn’s decision to experiment with them more empathetic and less cruel.

It is noteworthy that, the first time Finn does choose to experiment with the Little People, he first checks to see if Jake is awake.  It’s clear that Finn know that he’s doing something wrong, even if he’s not sure why. Whether he didn’t want Jake to wake up and see that he was destroying the miniature version of he and Lady’s relationship, or that he simply didn’t want Jake to know that he was experimenting with these figures at all, it’s clear that Finn’s fascination with these figures succeeds his desire to be morally correct and thoughtful in regards to his interactions. That’s why, when Jake does realize what Finn’s been doing the next morning, he’s noticeably freaked out. Probably the most shocking moment in the entire episode is Jake discovering the little Finn and little Rainicorn smooching, as Finn reacts apathetically to the entire situation. Finn acknowledges once again, “they’re just toys,” (while also reading a book by J.T. Doggzone that has the exact same quote from Jake in the beginning of the episode, hint hint) showing that, even though he’s spent an entire night seeing how the Little People would interact with each other, his desire to play with the Little People and see how their relationships with each other work out has only gotten worse.

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This is where Finn’s manipulative side comes out in full force; it will later plague his life in ways he probably could never have imagined, but one of his greatest character flaws comes from simple curiosity and desire to have people’s lives follow in the ways that he’s most interested in. Like I said, when putting it in this context, it makes Finn seem like a monstrous, immoral jerk, but his ignorance toward the situation and general fascination are hard to pinpoint as truly sociopathic for a 14-year-old boy. Most of this intrigue derives from his initial curiosity with how relationships work in the very first frame: he’s simply invested in the unusual relationships he’s created with the Little People and interested in how they are able to function in certain partnerships. This, of course, includes an obligatory inclusion of the threesome between Lollipop Girl, Choose Goose, and Abracadaniel that everyone has been requesting to see for years. It refers back to my statement earlier that this episode manages to be very unsettling while also being silly and colorful. I can’t even describe my feelings of combined disgust and enjoyment with Turtle Princess spanking Xergiok’s behind. It’s also a nice return for some characters we really never get to see or haven’t seen since the very first season, even if it isn’t actually said characters.

Following this bit is probably the most interesting piece in the episode, which is Finn experimenting with the tiny FP and tiny PB respectively. It starts out innocently enough as Finn just casually and happily watches the two figurines romanticize with each other (much to the dismay of a crying little Lady; the first big indicator that the Little People are capable of real, human emotions). Things take a turn when Finn then begins to experiment with little PB and little Finn’s interactions, which quickly take the same direction as the prior encounter. I think the particular pacing in this part is just great; just from Finn’s facial expressions, there’s a lot to read into. He looks very concerned and troubled when little PB and little him begin to interact, perhaps due to the nature of his feelings and commitment to Flame Princess, which probably brings him a great deal of shame and guilt that he is pursuing this fantasy. He quickly shakes off the guilt when he notices that no one is watching, and continues to be invested on what will happen next. When little PB and little Finn begin to kiss, Finn is surprised. This is the first time he’s experiencing a mutual “hook-up” with PB, aside from when she was briefly 13, and even though it’s not actually him experiencing it, he’s still enticed and enthralled by the turn of events. This of course, is another big indicator that Finn still isn’t really over Bubblegum. Sure, the little version of himself and little Lady (boy, am I tired of putting “little” before every character’s name in this post) hooking up doesn’t mean that Finn is also interested in Lady. That was probably just an early experiment to test out all of the interesting connections he could make between the Little People. Yet, when little Finn and little PB do connect, Finn is obviously much more interested in seeing what happens with the two, and it’s clear he is living out some sort of fantasy through the Little People. Little Finn’s glory doesn’t last long, however, when little Flame Princess releases her anger against little PB, but Finn himself couldn’t be more interested. He’s understandably turned on by the idea of his two main flames fighting over him! Again, another very uncomfortable scene that’s balanced with some really great visual humor. I love Finn’s absolutely stimulated face throughout the fight sequence, and of course, the hilarious visual of little PB squeezing little Lady’s tears to douse little Flame Princess. That was priceless. It adds another bit of foreshadowing to the mix, showing Finn’s arousal to people fighting over him and an instance where he’d rather pursue his own needs of autonomy than follow a more logical and moral standpoint.

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Finn finally does come to his senses upon Jake’s return. Finn begins to realize that these tiny people, whether toys, separate entities, or plain dark magic, are suffering, and they are suffering because of the way Finn has messed with their lives. Jake says it best:

This is messed up dude! You’ve crossed the line from weird curiosity into some dark, messed up stuff. The destruction, the depravity, the wrongness of it all!

The somberness of Jake’s words, combined with the horrifying transformative montage of a melting Peppermint Butler, a physically abusive Turtle Princess, and a mangled Goose-Abracadaniel-Lollipop threesome, really drives the point home. Jake told Finn how relationships work at the beginning of the episode: there aren’t designed perfect relationships for others, but rather the feelings people have for each other and what they choose to do with those feelings that define a healthy relationship. Finn chose to ignore that advice and play match-maker, which backfired for others as well as himself. Finn’s only choice left is to fix what he started, as he strives to do so often as a hero. Finn uses the new method he’s discovered to communicate with the Little People, and to correct the damage he’s caused.

After talking with little Finn, little PB, little Lady, and little FP, Finn simply states, “I’m not coming back.”

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It mirrors Magic Man’s line from the beginning, and shows how similar, yet different the two are in terms of their power over other people. Magic Man uses his power to destroy and harm other lifeforms, and, instead of leaving these lifeforms in a safe place of comfort, he always departs with a message of hopelessness and pessimism. Finn had also used his powers over others to mess with and harm their lives, though unintentionally, yet he corrects those actions by fixing his dilemma and leaving the Little People on a note where they’re able to carelessly enjoy their lives. But still, it’s almost a bit of a paradox, because Magic Man did teach Finn a lesson and left him to carelessly go on with his life after correcting his mistakes, so it causes the statement to draw even stronger connections between these two characters. Regardless of intention, it’s really great to be able to have this connection between these two wildly different characters, and still have it feel appropriate with the story and each of their motivations. And of course, what better way to end on a happy note than to have a Little People dance party with Ice King and BMO really hitting it off? Can’t wait for the continuation of this relationship 110 episodes from now!

If there’s one sole thing I don’t like about this episode, it’s that Goddamn “16 weeks later” title card. Yeah, yeah, it’s a gag that lasts two seconds and probably shouldn’t be taken so literally, but AT takes place in a world of realism and has certain rules to abide by, and time is definitely one of them. This is something Jesse Moynihan seems to do a lot, and while I think it worked in an episode like Return to the Nightosphere, it really, really does not work here. I have a tough time believing that Jake went without talking to Finn, who is still in his sweaty, disgusting pajamas for 112 days. Also, if it was that long, why does everything feel like it’s only been a day? Little Lady is mourning over her relationship with little Finn as if it had just ended, with little PB also holding a similar grudge. Again, I get it, it’s a brief gag that’s only supposed to emphasize how freaked out Jake was by Finn’s actions, but I just don’t buy it. It’s a cheap gag that they really could’ve just removed completely. It’s not funny or entertaining enough to even include.

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But, that minor gripe aside, boy, do I love this one! It really is such a rich character study of our main hero, taking him in places he’s really never been, and foreshadowing more awkward and intense drama that will follow in his early teen years. It’s an episode I love primarily for it’s atmosphere; everything feels very unsettling by Finn’s actions, the music, the situational pieces, and just the outlandish nature of the Little People in general. The entire episode feels like a Twilight Zone segment, in the sense that Finn is somewhat of the everyman. I mean, he typically can be seen as the everyman, but this example is probably the most notable in the viewpoint of a completely harmless activity gone terribly wrong at the hands of an normal, charismatic person. Finn does some awful, terrible things, but we still root for him because we know he’s in a situation that even the most level-headed person wouldn’t be able to resist. It’s one I never get sick of revisiting, and one that certainly has a high place on my all-time favorites list.

Hope everybody had a great holiday as well! Thankful for all of your readers out there who visit this blog every week to see me read way too far into a children’s cartoon like a giant nerd. There’s plenty of great content to come in the next few months, and I’m excited to continue on this journey through Season Five. Thanks everyone!

Favorite line: “You’ve crossed the line from weird curiosity into some dark, messed up stuff.”